Rolls-Royce Project Cullinan drives ‘first full development vehicle’ out for testing in public

Rolls-Royce Project Cullinan's SUV breaks cover covered in optical camo

Rolls-Royce Project Cullinan’s SUV breaks cover covered in optical camo (Rolls-Royce photo)

Project Cullinan continues apace. We’ve told you previously about how Rolls-Royce had launched Project Cullinan, and about its endeavor to build, in its own words, an “all-terrain, high-sided vehicle,” which is how you say “sport-utility vehicle” with an Upstairs accent.

While Rolls-Royce is late to the luxury SUV game, it won’t come lacking when it arrives. In addition to the all-terrain suspension and drivetrain that has been tested in a development mule shown earlier—a rather grotesque cobbling of Rolls-Royce bits to conceal the final appearance of Project Cullinan—Rolls engineers have also been developing an application of an all-new all-aluminum architecture that will underpin not only the new SUV but all Rolls-Royce models “from 2018 onwards.”

Now Rolls-Royce has announced that, starting tomorrow (December 2, 2016), the “first full development vehicle will begin testing in public,” and has released two images of the vehicle. The new vehicle is shown wrapped in an optically confusing swirly-pattern to hide, at least to some extent, its eventual appearance.

But from what we can see—if indeed this is the shape that will go into production—Project Cullinan’s contours are more squared-off than those of the Bentley Bentayga, more reminiscent to our eyes of the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghosts that were pressed into service and armored for service in WWI.

Rolls-Royce Project Cullinan SUV

Squared-off contours give the Rolls-Royce Project Cullinan SUV a military look, though low front valence looks like it would limit approach angle. (Rolls-Royce photo)

While no doubt the Royal Marines would appreciate the luxury fittings that can be expected in the—they haven’t given us a name yet so—Project Cullinan, Rolls has no intent of making a boulevard poseur. Looking at the front end of the Rolls SUV in the photographs, however, it looks like the approach angle will be limited by the relative lack of ground clearance for the front valence panel.

According to a statement by Rolls-Royce, “This latest development vehicle will travel to numerous locations around the world in a challenging testing programme [sic] to ensure that the end product will be ‘Effortless … Everywhere’. Just after Christmas, for example, Project Cullinan will enter the Arctic Circle to undergo cold weather durability and traction testing. Later in 2017, it will travel to the Middle East to endure the highest of temperatures and challenging desert conditions.”

According to Torsten Müller-Ötvös, Chief Executive Officer, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, in a prepared statement, “This is an incredibly exciting moment in the development of Project Cullinan both for Rolls-Royce and for the patrons of luxury that follow us around the world. Bringing together the new four-wheel drive system and the new ‘architecture of luxury’ for the first time sets us on the road to creating a truly authentic Rolls-Royce which, like its forebears, will reset the standard by which all other luxury goods are judged.”

Project Cullinan project engineer will get more off-road hours in the new Rolls-Royce SUV than the typical owner ever will, but no doubt “Effortless…Everywhere” will be an accurate description.

Would you take a Rolls-Royce SUV off-road?